Missouri University of Science and Technology

To better understand the public perception of critical minerals and metals associated with clean energy transitions and the implications for policymaking

  • Amount $400,000
  • City Rolla, MO
  • Investigator Mahelet Fikru
  • Year 2023
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

The transition of the United States energy system away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and other low-carbon energy sources will involve the greater use of critical minerals and metals. Critical minerals and metals are necessary components for renewable energy technologies like solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries. Domestic demand for these building blocks of the clean energy transition is projected to increase dramatically over the next decades, both in response to rising consumer demand and to domestic sourcing requirements in the Inflation Reduction Act. However, little attention has been paid to the issue of public perceptions of critical mineral and metal mining and how these views might shape future supply chains and policymaking. To address this gap, Mahelet Fikru and Kwame Awuah-Offeil at the Missouri University of Science and Technology will conduct a pair of nationally representative surveys to evaluate public perception of critical minerals and metals. The first survey will focus on gauging public awareness about the role that critical minerals and metals play in clean energy transitions, and it will study public perceptions of policies that aim to advance domestic critical mineral production. The second survey will ascertain how consumers value tradeoffs between different factors associated with the critical mineral inputs of clean energy technologies. In particular, this survey will study how consumers value the source of the critical minerals and metals in terms of whether or not those materials are produced domestically or abroad, the sustainability of the mining practices and environmental impact, and the ultimate cost of the clean energy technologies that use these mineral and metal inputs. Results from both surveys will be used to develop an economic model to investigate the impact of different critical mineral and metal policies on upstream mining companies and downstream clean energy technology manufacturers. The team will also use the model to examine which policies might be well suited to achieve the goals of a low-carbon energy system and develop a more sustainable domestic critical mineral and metal supply chain. Three peer-reviewed journal articles will report on findings, and the team will also make all survey materials, datasets, models, and code publicly available.

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